Verse > Walt Whitman > Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

105. You Felons on Trial in Courts

YOU felons on trial in courts; 
You convicts in prison-cells—you sentenced assassins, chain’d and hand-cuff’d with iron; 
Who am I, too, that I am not on trial, or in prison? 
Me, ruthless and devilish as any, that my wrists are not chain’d with iron, or my ankles with iron? 
You prostitutes flaunting over the trottoirs, or obscene in your rooms,         5
Who am I, that I should call you more obscene than myself? 
O culpable! 
I acknowledge—I exposé! 
(O admirers! praise not me! compliment not me! you make me wince, 
I see what you do not—I know what you do not.)  10
Inside these breast-bones I lie smutch’d and choked; 
Beneath this face that appears so impassive, hell’s tides continually run; 
Lusts and wickedness are acceptable to me; 
I walk with delinquents with passionate love; 
I feel I am of them—I belong to those convicts and prostitutes myself,  15
And henceforth I will not deny them—for how can I deny myself? 



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